From the mysterious sailing stones of Death Valley to red tides, orange moons and ice circles, our world is full of bizarre phenomena. Here are 13 of the most interesting wonders on this planet!
1. Sailing Stones
The mysterious moving stones of the packed-mud desert of Death Valley have been the center of scientific controversy for decades. Rocks weighing hundreds of pounds have been known to move hundreds of yards at a time.
Some scientists have theorized that a combination of strong winds and surface ice account for these movements. However, this theory does not explain evidence of different rocks starting side by side and moving at different rates in disparate directions. Moreover, the physics calculations do not fully support this theory, as wind speeds of hundreds of miles per hour would be needed to move some of the stones.
2. Basalt Columns
When a thick lava flow cools, it contracts vertically, but cracks perpendicular to its directional flow with remarkable geometric regularity, in most cases forming a remarkable grid of hexagonal extrusions that almost appear to be made by man.
One of the most famous examples is the Giant's Causeway on the coast of Ireland (shown above), though the largest and most widely-recognized is arguably Devils Tower in Wyoming, USA. Basalt also forms in different but equally fascinating ways when eruptions are exposed to air or water.
3. Blue Holes
Blue holes are giant and sudden drops in underwater elevation that get their name from the dark and foreboding blue tone they exhibit when viewed from above in relation to their surrounding waters. They can be hundreds of feet deep, and while divers are able to explore some of them, they are largely devoid of oxygen and therefore cannot support marine life due to poor water circulation, leaving them eerily empty.
Some blue holes, however, contain ancient fossil remains that have been discovered, preserved in their depths.
4. Red Tides
Red tides are also known as algal blooms. They are sudden influxes of massive amounts of colored single-cell algae that can convert entire areas of an ocean or beach into a blood red color. While some of these can be relatively harmless, others can be harbingers of deadly toxins that cause the deaths of fish, birds and marine mammals.
In some cases, even humans have been harmed by red tides, though no human exposure is known to have been fatal. While serious harm to humans remains a possibility when they are in large numbers, the constituent phytoplankton in red tides are not harmful in small numbers.
5. Ice Circles
While many see these apparently perfect ice circles as worthy of conspiracy theories, scientists generally accept that they are formed by eddies in the water, that spin a sizable piece of ice in a circular motion. As a result of this rotation, other pieces of ice and flotsam wear relatively evenly at the edges of the ice until it slowly forms into an essentially perfect circle.
Ice circles with diameters of over 500 feet have been observed, and can also at times be found in clusters and groups of different sizes as shown above.
6. Mammatus Clouds
True to their ominous appearance, mammatus clouds are often harbingers of a coming storm or other extreme weather system. Typically composed primarily of ice, they can extend for hundreds of miles in each direction, and individual formations can remain visibly static for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. While they may appear foreboding, they are merely the messengers that appear around, before or even after severe weather.
7. Fire Rainbows
A circumhorizontal fire rainbow arc occurs at a rare confluence of the right time and the right place for the sun and certain clouds. Crystals within the clouds refract light into various visible waves of the light spectrum, but only if they are arrayed correctly relative to the ground below.
Due to the rarity of all these events happening in conjunction with one another, there are relatively few good photos of this phenomenon.
Sinkholes are one of the worlds scariest natural phenomena. Over time, water erodes the soil under the planet's surface until in some cases, quite suddenly, the land above gives way and collapses into the earth. Many sinkholes occur naturally, while others are the result of human intervention.
Displacing groundwater can open cavities, while broken pipes can erode otherwise stable subterranean sediments. Urban sinkholes, up to hundreds of feet deep, have formed and consumed parts of city blocks, sidewalks and even entire buildings.
Named after peak-hooded New Mexican monks (lower right), penitentes are dazzling naturally-forming ice blades that stick up at sharp angles toward the sun. Rarely found except at high altitudes, they can grow taller than a human and form in vast fields.As ice melts in particular patterns, valleys formed by initial melts leave mountains in their wake. Strangely, these formations ultimately slow the melting process, as the peaks cast shadows on the deeper surfaces below and allow for winds to blow over the peaks, cooling them.
10. Lenticular Clouds
Ever wonder what the truth about UFOs is? Avoided by traditional pilots but loved by sailplane aviators, lenticular clouds are masses of cloud with strong internal uplift that can drive a motorless flyer to high elevations. Their shape is quite often mistaken for a mysterious flying object, or even as the artificial cover for one.
Generally, lenticular clouds are formed as wind speeds up while moving around a large land object such as a mountain.
Sundogs are the product of light passing through crystals. The particular shape and orientation of the crystals can have a drastic visual impact for the viewer, producing a longer tail and changing the range of colors one sees. The relative height of the sun in the sky shifts the distance the sundogs appear to be on either side of the sun.
Varying climactic conditions on other planets in our solar system produce halos with up to four sundogs from those planets perspectives. Sundogs have been speculated about and discussed since ancient times, and written records describing the various attributes of our sun dating back to the Egyptians and Greeks.
12. Fire Whirls
Fire whirls (also known as fire devils or tornadoes) appear in or around raging fires when the right combination of climactic conditions is present. Fire whirls can be spawned by other natural events such as earthquakes and thunderstorms, and can be incredibly dangerous, in some cases spinning well out of the zone of a fire itself to cause devastation and death in a radius not even reached by heat or flame.
Fire whirls have been known to be nearly a mile high on occasion, and have wind speeds of over 100 miles per hour. Some last for 20 or more minutes.
13. Orange Moons
This last phenomenon is something most people have seen before - beautiful orange moon hanging low in the sky. But what causes this phenomenon? And, for that matter, does the moon have a color at all? When the moon appears lower on the horizon, rays of light bouncing off it have to pass through a great deal more of our atmosphere, which slowly strips away everything but yellows, oranges and reds.
The bottom-most image above is true to the hues of the moon, but has enhanced colors to show the differences in shade that illustrate the moon's surface's mixed topography and minerology more clearly. Looking at the colors in combination with the craters, one can start to trace the history of impacts and consequent material movements across the face of our mysterious moon.
Posted by: jyoti ranpura <firstname.lastname@example.org>